I have been thinking about this a lot recently. It seems like over the past few weeks I have heard many educators bringing up what the next phase of education expects as a justification for decisions being made in schools and classrooms. I don’t believe that this is how we should be making decisions!
Right now my time is spent in high schools and while I know it is important for all students to get into a good college and be able to pursue the career of their dreams, I do not feel that we should be making decisions about how we educate our high school children based on how colleges are doing things. First of all, most colleges are pretty traditional. College classes today do not look much different than they did twenty-five years ago when I entered as a freshman. Also, there is a maturity level to a college student that many of our high school students simply do not possess YET. Finally, college students have a lot more choice in their learning than high school students do. (Do I want to take a class at 8 am or would I rather start my day at noon? Do I want to take calculus and chemistry during the same semester or should I spread them over two semesters?)
I fear that this constant worry about what is coming clouds what is happening. We have well-defined standards for learning at each grade level and I strongly believe by focusing on these standards, asking students to think deeply, providing choice and listening to students voices about their learning we can ensure that all students will be successful, enthusiastic, curious, innovative, civilized participants in life.
We need to let students enjoy the learning they are engaged in and build upon the skills and strengths they have come to us with. We must continue to push them to think deeply, question and take risks while trusting that we are doing a good job and knowing that they will be prepared for any next step in life they might take. We must encourage them to love the life they are experiencing and learn each step of the way.
Each phase of learning – a 6-year-old beginning to read, a 12-year-old discovering that the segregation of our history still impacts our country today, or an 18-year-old writing a killer college essay that ensures acceptance to the college of his dreams – is something to be cherished!